Belfast Telegraph

McKay is keen to impress Mixu and his pal Michael

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland striker Billy McKay has more reason than most to impress Dundee United manager Mixu Paatelainen. Not only does he need to deliver for the Finn to make the first team at the Scottish Premiership side, but the 27-year-old will also be aware that Paatelainen will be giving Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill chapter and verse on his performances.

O'Neill and Paatelainen are best pals. Have been since they played together for the Tannadice outfit years ago.

They grew even closer when Paatelainen asked O'Neill to be his assistant at Cowdenbeath.

And when their paths crossed as international managers with Mixu in charge of Finland, the mutual respect remained.

Finland sacked Paatelainen before the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign ended. In the same group Northern Ireland qualified for France.

While O'Neill is looking forward to a major tournament, Paatelainen is working day-to-day on the training field as boss of Dundee United, having taken over last month.

United are bottom of the table and have lost their last four games in a row.

One of the few shining lights has been ex-Inverness Caley ace McKay, who has scored six goals this season after joining the club on loan from Wigan.

O'Neill and his number two Jimmy Nicholl are regulars at United games and McKay knows if he is to make the squad for Euro 2016, he must keep hitting the target.

"Jimmy and the manager (Michael O'Neill) watch us all quite a bit and they are very encouraging," said McKay.

"Mixu knows Michael from when they both were here at United. We were also in the same qualifying group as Finland when he was their manager.

"Hopefully, he can put in a good word for me but it's up to me to keep playing well for United."

Belfast Telegraph